Olympics: Human Rights Watch report documents abuse of child athletes in Japan

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© Reuters. The National Stadium, the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is seen through a visitor wearing a protective mask amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tokyo

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By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Human Rights Watch report found that child athletes in Japan often suffer physical and verbal abuse and sometimes sexual abuse during training after documenting the experiences of more than 800 athletes in 50 sports .

The 67-page report released on Monday titled “I’ve Been Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count” examines Japan’s history of physical punishment in sport and includes testimonials from athletes.

The report comes in the week that would have marked the start of the Tokyo Olympics without the global coronavirus pandemic. The Games have now been delayed for a year.

“The specific abuses that we have documented include punching, slapping, kicking or punching objects (and) too much or too little food and water,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch (HRW), at a press conference.

In 2013, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) pledged to take action to end violence within its sports federations after an internal investigation found that more than 10% of its athletes had been bullied or bullied. bullying.

He also cut funding to his judo federation for a time after coaches were found to physically assault female athletes.

HRW said little has been done since then and demanded that organizations such as the Japan Sports Council and the JOC use the upcoming Olympics as a catalyst for change. He noted that child abuse in sport is a global problem and that systems for reporting abuse are opaque, callous and inadequate.

“Human Rights Watch calls on Japan to take decisive action and play a leadership role in addressing this global crisis,” Worden said.

The JOC did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

The report was based on interviews with more than 50 current and former athletes, an online survey that drew 757 responses, and meetings with eight Japanese sports organizations.

Of the 381 survey respondents aged 24 and under, 19% reported being hit, punched, punched, slapped, knocked to the ground or beaten with an object while participating in sports.

“The coach told me that I was not serious enough with the race, so we were all called to the coach and I was punched in the face in front of everyone. I was bleeding, but it didn’t kept hitting me, “the report said. a professional athlete given the pseudonym of Daiki A. as saying.

Eighteen percent said they had been verbally abused and five said they had been sexually assaulted or harassed while playing sports as children.

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